Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And I'll Miss You When You Go

The days draw in
the rains come
and somehow we wrap up
and snuggle
put up the twinkle lights
and celebrate

the warmth of the season
the smells, the colours
and everywhere
the evergreens abound
we talk, we smile
we burst into laughter
these are the days
we remember ever after

and I'll miss you when you go
I'll miss you when you go

One glass of wine
then two, maybe three

Squiffy now
falling of the chair
everything's amusing
the lights are upside down
and the fake fireplace's a scream

and there's fondant melting in the car
be sure to put it in the freezer
and then the fridge

And this weekend you'll make cupcakes
and decorate them

And I'll miss you when you go
I'll miss you when you go

He said you would
You probably will
But I'll stay, see?

I'll stay here
and miss you
when you go.

Monday, November 29, 2010

In The Bleak December

I've just come back from an assignment/interview and had a late chicken rice (with one lot of extra chicken for my fussy doggie who rejected the curried version) and I'm supposed to settle down, write my story and send it off. Then I need to make a list of ingredients I would need for the baking which will take off in earnest after this.

But having fallen asleep on the sofa last night (my room having gone from messy to unlivable in a few short steps) I'm tired and what I want to do more than anything is have a nice long nap. There is a lot of stuff to wrap, about 18 at the last count (I have to dust off my Santa hat and go a-calling)...all about me chaos swirls, swirls, swirls...no matter how early you think you got this down, it always happens.

Luckily it's not December yet. If it were, I would just abandon everything, crawl into a comfortable corner and read more of Lucia, cuddle Arnold, scarf chocolate brownies and write a few desultory posts about all this existential anxiety that leads to complete and utter paralysis.

As it is...

Nearly there, just one more sprint.

As for the article, sap sap sui. Can do one! I'll do it tonight. Maybe.

But let me tell you about Saturday. Addy took me for a birthday dinner at this fabulous restaurant, Mezze. I didn't realise it at the time, but it was the one Mark kept telling me about in July (or was it June? Maybe May) He was supposed to perform there...he said, nice wine bar, dark wood, beautiful beautiful place.

Downstairs was the restaurant. It was simply superb. Addy and I were drooling over the goose liver pate (I know, but you try it and tell me it's not droolworthy). The nice manager who had a disturbing resemblance to Chubby Thambi (except that he wasn't chubby and his effervescene was real and not fake) came along, took our order, nodded approvingly when we asked for the portobello mushrooms (that's apparently a favourite there) and recommended the house pouring red. Stickleback, which neither Addy or I had heard of. Needless to say, it was divine. Between us we finished the whole bottle. But as we lined our respective tummies with the ultra-delicious food, it was OK.

Here he is. His name's Sakthi, but he prefers to be known as Magic. Same diff.

I came home and fell fast fast asleep (couldn't even manage a few pages of Lucia), the best sleep I'd had in weeks, months, maybe years.

Here's me and Addy, compliments of Magic. (both upper and lower case)

We checked out the upstairs and promised to come visit sometime soon and Magic promised in turn to give us the best seat in the house if we called him and booked it. Thing is, he's new there and didn't have a card.

As for the Christmas tree shopping, suffice to say we found a nice one, loaded Chubs with decorations (he didn't manage to find twinkle lights though so that's still on the to-do list) and may go over to his place to help him put it up.

OK Mum on the phone now.

Gotta go.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Things To Be Happy About

1. Arnold is home, inconveniently stretched out, as is his wont, in the corridor (so that you trip on him if you don't watch where you're going) blissfully content with a bellyful of meat (the latest meal being compliments of Dadda) rather than out in this awful storm, where I would have to worry about him.

2. I've just finished the second of the presents I'm making (my part anyway, I still have to take it to be bound) and it turned out beautifully. Woo hoo! Getting more and more into the mood.

3. In about an hour and a quarter will be going for a birthday dinner with Addy at a new place in Damansara Heights.

4. Have made up a list of baked goods that everyone is getting...and yay, it's almost time to start baking.

5. Finished the third story yesterday. I only have another three left for the year.

6. Have posted my final Christmas card today. The post office was actually open. Yippeee!

7. Got the odour absorber which is now doing its good work in my car which, persists, even after the expensive steam cleaning of cushions, to smell faintly of Arnold's puke.

8. Lucia is as bewitching as ever and keeps me rivetted. Molto bene, as she would say.

9. I bought a roll of actual scotch tape in a hardware shop so I can start wrapping presents.

10. Tomorrow Julie and I will be going Christmas shopping with Chubbieeeeeee. A tree, decorations, my cup runneth over.

11. I found a packaging shop at Jaya One which among others, has the bubble envelopes so dear to my heart, packing boxes (in case I want to send someone a Christmas box) and which binds books. What more can I ask for?

12. My printer works.

13. After two years, I'm finally figuring out how to use my camera.

14. The new sofa is very comfortable. I fell asleep on it during the worst of the storm with Arnold close by.

Dreaming and Scheming

Arnold has taken off for his daily sojourn. I thought, OK today I wouldn't let him go, but he kept pawing me, looking desperately into my eyes and whimpering softly at first, then louder, then louder. I can't believe how agitated he gets when not allowed out. And I wonder why it takes him all day to come home.

Anyway, I was looking at a shopping list and thinking about how shopping and to-do lists give you some idea of whatever is happening in your life at the time. For instance my shopping list today includes:

Green chillies
Spices (cloves, cardamom, star anise)
A plastic cover for the dining table (7 by 4)
Printing paper (to print out the Christmas books I spent a great deal of time putting together and formatting yesterday)
iPod earphones (Mum's birthday present to me)
and chicken for the truant doggie from the chicken rice shop

Tomorrow, Julie and I are going out with Chubs to get his Christmas tree and the decorations. He wants to Christmas up his new apartment and this is one time where we will willingly oblige. (He doesn't want to go to Ikea though and I do)

Julie asked if she could "upah" me to bake a cake for her office. I asked which cake and she said they're all chocolate freaks. So that makes another Texas Fudge cake (at last count, I'm making three). I actually have to make a list of the people I'm giving the Christmas basket to.

And I have one more Christmas card to send out, just cos, I didn't have the address earlier. The post office guy at Bangsar has started to know me real well. We banter while the rest of them loaded down with envelopes (apparently I'm not the only one who sends out cards early) snarl, already in the holiday mood.

The first time I went clutching my mess of cards, it was storming outside, so I sang "oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful..." as I licked a hundred stamps onto various envelopes.

The second time it was not storming so I didn't sing.

The third time, who knows? But I just have one card more to send. No matter how well I try to plan, it always takes several trips to the post office. I'm trying to co-opt Julie for a nefarious scheme next week. She said she's busy but she doesn't know with what. She just has a vague idea that she said yes to something or other. My sister is probably one of the busiest people in the whole of KL. Hectic social schedule indeed! Mine is nothing compared to hers. Which is why at the present moment, I'm sitting cross-legged on the sofa while she is off to Malacca for a day-trip. Arnold has gone off on his daily odyssey and Dadda is mumbling to himself and surfing the internet. Probably writing nasty letters to the editor on the various news sites he favours.

I finished my third in a series of five stories yesterday (oh joy!) and sent off a list of very detailed questions for another unrelated interview (which I had been putting off because the topic is fairly technical and required a lot of background reading beforehand). The PR (I gotta say, she's the most efficient one I've ever come across) sent me an acknowledgement pronto. And this was like at 11 at night. Wonders will never cease.

I'm re-reading EF Benson's Lucia series because they are nothing so much as pure pleasure. I can understand why Noel Coward and the like were so potty about these books. EF Benson has a very sharp tongue but I like the characters anyway. Especially Miss Mapp whom no one else seems to like. She was such a wonderful villainess.

OK I think I have to go mandi now and make tracks for the outside world. Arnold can't be the only one having all the fun.

Later for you.

Later that day: Wonder of wonders, when I got back from my desultory running of errands, who should I see waiting under the car parked on the neighbour's verge but young Arnold. I'd know that dishevelled figure anywhere. The cats are sleeker and neater-looking.

He was waiting to be let in, and when I opened the gate to drive in my car, he let out one of his howls that had my Dadda scurrying for the window.

"Eh, what happened? Why is the fellow back so early?"

"I donno. But I think he's hungry. We didn't give him any breakfast, what? Luckily I bought food for him."

I had bungkused some chicken rice and asked the guy for an extra packet of chicken for the dog. I fully expected only to feed him tonight when he got back from his peregrinations, but lo and behold, here he was.

I handed the food to Dadda while I got all my stuff out of the car and said...ok, go give him first...the one with only chicken is his. And like a gooboy, Dadda went. Arnold wolfed down everything in half a second. So Dadda added the chicken. He wolfed it down again. Now it's been some days since we've seen any display of his normal appetite so your guess is as good as mine what happened today. Maybe he arrived at his destination and whoever he's adopted was out and not ready to feed him. So that was two meals missed as he didn't get anything from here either. It must have been one hungry dog that came back.

Anyway Dadda is busy cooking the chicken I had bought before for Arnold. I said...cook it and keep it...he's too hungry. Now Arnold has fallen asleep next to me. Four helpings of chicken has done the job.

At least I think it has.

Or I hope it has.

Dadda just came here, looked at him sleeping and said: "He's having flu, his nose is running. Maybe that's the reason he came back. Having fever or something. Check and see."

And I grunted noncommitally because to me, Arnold appears to be resting comfortably.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Prodigal Son

See this sleepy doggie? He's just come back from a day of wandering far, far away.

Mr. De Mille, I'm ready for my close-up.

We don't know where he goes. Except that it's very far away and he comes back later every day. Dadda thinks it signals a lack of loyalty. After all we feed him and he gets all the cuddles he can take. But I think it's a very poignant form of loyalty. Like Greyfriars' Bobby he returns to scenes of past pleasures, former haunts, maybe an old master? Then he makes the long, long tramp back to arrive only when it's dark. When he arrives he licks me, heads straight for the kitchen, drinks a lot of water, eats whatever we have put out for him, and then comes to the hall, flops down and goes to sleep. You can try to wake him, but the little doggie is just plain exhausted. I cleaned the pus-filled wound with the saline Julie bought and he whimpers if I press too hard.

He's an old dog. It's difficult for him to make the two-way trek. He's tired. But he does it anyway.

Isn't that what loyalty is all about?

So when the prodigal son returns now, I have no heart to scold him. I just pat him on the head, accept his affection and then feed and water him.

My Arnold is a lovely dog.

Maybe one day he won't return.

I'll enjoy him till then.

(He's doing the whimpery bark in his sleep...he barks like this when he's trying desperately to tell you something...like I want to go out now, please let me out, please, please let me out, I have to go)

Birthday Matters

Feeling like your youth is slipping away? Don't be silly. It left a long time ago. Kidding...Happy Birthday.


Happy 39th ah! You still look like a whippersnapper 20-sthing...donch worry. You have your mummy's face after all! Hope it's a great one.

Louwe and bunny slippers,

My sister, ladies and gentlemen, and in case you wanted to see what this particular beauty queen looks like, I got in some good shots at the birthday do.

Like this one:

Or this:

But my favourite picture of the night had to be this. My Chubs of a brother demonstrating how to look like an Ah Lian. First you bring your eyelids down. Then look up. Puff out your cheeks. Poke anywhere.

What else can I say? There was wine, there was pasta, there was lamb, there was also the sacramental tiramisu that we passed around after I had blown out the one candle (one, haha)...the three Jacobs and one Fernandez kid were trigger-happy and we snapped away all night.

All in all, a fun time had by all. Chubs recounted the UK-India SMS incident and all of us, rather squiffy on red wine by this time, laughed fit to kill ourselves. I can't remember what the SMS in question said anymore but I do remember that it nearly caused an international incident. OK, the extent of the international incident would have been a terse reply from the D-man to my sisters for telling him to kneel down, let the soil flow through his fingers and say, Mother India, I have returned to your sandy bosoms. Jai Hind.

But still.

Arnold has taken to disappearing the entire day. He goes very very far away (I went about probably quarterways with him today, as I had leashed him and forced him to take me along but he tried to get into a fight with a cute little inoffensive doggie, which earned him a spanking and a quick turnaround - I dragged him home quicksmart). I don't know how he escaped today. Neither door was open. I have named him the ever-prodigal son....except that he keeps returning every night (albeit later and later). I am thinking he has another family, but this family evidently does not feed or water him. He arrives back hungry and thirsty and tired and wanting cuddles.

And this is just for Mary. I thought it might amuse you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hail Penang continued (and then some)

It would not be wrong to speak of people as having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographed form. That most logical of nineteenth-century aesthetes, Mallarmè, said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph. Susan Sontag, On Photography

And now we've got that out of the way, let me proceed to prove her right. Here's us at Backyard last night. Me, the Prabhakaran and the Ads.

And here is Mark playing (but of course, why else would I be at Backyard?)

So I was going to tell you about Penang. Well, we went to the museum but weren't allowed to take pictures so I can offer you no visual record of the place. Instead, here's a frontal view of the E&O.

Anyways, we woke up early the next day (despite our relatively late night out) because I wanted to have the roti kosong and kopi susu at this place in Teluk Bahang. I kept telling the other two how Jackie, Julie and I had stumbled upon it in our meanderings through Penang and just how wonderful it was. All I remembered was...near the roundabout.


The place was closed. We asked a guy hanging about...and he said...raya. It was Hari Raya Haji the next day, so these guys were celebrating early. When would it open? After Raya. By which time we would be outta there. So we took our sad selves away, trying to find another place for our roti kosong and kopi susu (the other two wanted kurang manis and as for me, hey, what is life without sugar, lots and lots of it...healthy, you say? slim, you say? yeah, well there's more in life than that...like sugar)

The mamak around the corner was not half or even quarter as good. There was no fler in his sarong tariking the coffee. And the roti lacked ooomph. Young Eve and Younger Mary were not satisfied. They needed their morning coffee. So we ended up at a restaurant in Ferringhi, having morning coffee. Just coffee. And then...

Fast forward to a couple of hours later (bout the only hours in the day when we weren't stuffing our faces) and as we wandered through the fascinating exhibits (I think Penang has the most interesting museum in all of Malaysia) the two of them were dragging apace and complaining of hunger headaches. There was only one thing to do. Whack banana leaf. Accordingly we made our way to Vellu Villas. Being naturally unable to follow directions or trust in the directions we were following, we made phone calls to ascertain the way and stopped a satisfied looking Indian man who said, yes, yes, you just go straight and turn right there.

Mary, being the astute chickadee she is, asked him: "Did you just come from there?"

Nodding vigorously, he replied: "Yes, yes."

This is us whacking banana leaf. When you're really hungry, there's nothing so satisfying. Geez, I wish I could have some now. But Dadda is making rice and we will be having it with pickles and prawn sambal shortly. Shiokalingam!

And here's Mary...I can't remember what she was asking...maybe for the fried bitter gourd (they didn't have that but their vegetables and curries were fantastic anyway) I had the mutton curry and it was too errie for me. So Mary had to take my mutton and I took her chicken. It would have been OK if I had slathered the whole thing in tairu. But I have been known to change places cos I can't take the smell. Can't stand tairu, so can't eat hot mutton curry.

We dragged our overfull carcasses outta there in search of Bru coffee. Apparently Vellu (or is it Velu) Villas doesn't serve coffee until the evening. But coffee was of the essence so we went to Woodlands nearby and had our fill.

And then Eve decided that it was time to see the Khoo Kongsi. If you think we were clueless before, you should have seen us then. I think we asked about 10 different people for directions (although we kept advancing, generally in the right direction). Because Mary looked like this...

...everyone took us for tourists. One particularly bright spark we stopped and asked directions from asked if we were from China. I mean to say, what?

It cost us about RM10 each to get into the Khoo Kongsi and was totally not worth it. Going through renovations or something...I thought this was cute though:

And here's some more of it with my two superstars posing:

Well, by this time we were hot and sticky. Really hot and sticky. It was back to base for a shower, nap and out to very good dinner at Mario's...it was an interesting dinner. Especially interesting in that we didn't pay for it. In fact, most of our meals in Penang seemed to be sponsored by someone or other. (And except for breakfast, which we paid for ourselves) they were all VERY GOOD MEALS. When I tell anyone that we overate in Penang, they look surprised and say...but what else is Penang for? So yeah. And we didn't walk worth a darn because it was too hot and the humidity was another thing altogether.

But young Evelyn didn't get her char kueh teow at Gurney Drive (or wherever) because were shanghaied away for dinner...and we didn't get to walk along the beach or go to Flag Hill or to the nightmarket by the beach. All stuff to do next time around.

But there was one thing I had to do. Simply had to. When we visited the gift shop at E&O I had seen their drool-worthy coffee table book. I mean it was really something else. Ilsa Sharp drawing from multiple sources to tell us why E&O, and by extension Penang, was just the most interesting place, like ever! (Yes Nits, I know you agree...)

Here's me glued to the fancy vintage seat in the gift shop leafing through the book. Merlene and then her assistant (whose name I do not remember but who was a very nice sweet young girl) let me sit there for as long as I liked playing with the book. It was just too cool. But it was also RM188.50 and I would have to justify it to my conscience. Finally decided to give myself a birthday present. And guess what? Mary decided the same thing. So here was the book I really really wanted, compliments of my friend. Woo hoo!

Awwww, look at the the little pudge! Isn't she cute?

OK, young Evelyn took off for Langkawi the next morning. We did an early morning drive to airport (finding our way through a mixture of directions and road signs) and then came back via Balik Pulau which was a mistake as the road was windy and I felt like throwing up by the time we arrived back home and I crawled into bed for a nap.

Then it was off to Mary's where I was staying the night...and here's her with her cute little mommie...

So....that's the end of the Penang pictures....all good things must come to an end.

Btw Jack, lemmee introduce you to our new sofa. Dadda's Christmas present. The Shi Sho girl is presently breaking it in...she's curled up in her blankie on it, fast asleep.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hail Penang

I was going to give you a blow by blow account but since that would bore all two of you, and since time is passing and the flurry of the present replaces the past, I'll be brief.

See this?

It's my favourite picture from the trip.

And this?

It's my second favourite image. Both my shots. And both outside the E&O. We were posing (at least Mary was because I made her). She kept saying...I know I'm born in the year of the monkey but that doesn't mean I'm your performing monkey, and I was like, yeah, yeah, whatever, now drape yourself on that cannon...come on, this is the price of being beautiful, you have to pose!

And the second one...well it was drizzling and the two of them were trying to get a handle of their respective umbrellas. You know how those moments caught in time...that split second between spontaneity and well-rehearsed poses, the knowing smile...don't they just look gorgeous?

And if you want to see the entire 3K (that's Tiga Keling or Three Keralites for all y'all who haven't been following this blog long enough to know it) here's the three of us. In Soho, which is a happening night spot. One thing, gentle readers, we were all this side of tipsy. Me, on Sambuca, Evelyn on Medori and Mary on Pimm's Lemonade.

Now you've seen all of us together, let's get on with the story. We arrived to find that we had booked a spacious apartment with three rooms (we had requested and paid for two), two bathrooms, a kitchen, a hall with a large-screen tv. All nice. Except that the shower in the master bedroom was koyak. So Mary (who got the MB) had to come shower with the rest of us in the tiny little outside bathroom. But the warm water was warm, and sides, we weren't in the apartment much to mind. And there were air cons in the rooms and the beds were comfortable.

Our first stop was the famous and many-storied E&O Hotel. We looked at the pictures of the Sarkies brothers, I took some pix but they weren't that good, wandered in an out of the bakery (it was too late for high tea...I had wanted high tea), went to the gift shop where we met and made friends with Merlene Narcis, the cheery lady who ran it (she was so friendly she showed us pictures of her three sons, her husband, and even invited us over for a bottle of wine at her very nice house in MarVista in Batu Ferringhi...we said yes, maybe, we'll call you if we come...and didn't go. Penang hospitality seems to be legendary)

Here's a picture of Merlene for you:

Merlene told us about Soho. We were going to go for char kueh teow. But the rain came pouring down, angry waves crashed onto the tembok at E&O and basically, were stuck in the hotel. So we decided to have our dinner at the terribly Mat Salleh Farquhar Bar (OK sorry if you're not Malaysian and you don't understand this - Mat Salleh is how we refer to white people - it's not rude, not really). The food was OK and overpriced and the service was poor (I know, I know) but it was an experience and one that I had wanted to have since I'd first been in the E&O.

When the bill came we did our usual fight...and found out that it was on one of Mary's siblings. Apparently, since she's the one in SP looking after her mother (while the rest of them are scattered all over the globe) they wanted her to have a real treat. Pull out all stops. That kind of thing.

Only funny thing was Mary said the meal (which in my mind was mondo expensive) was too cheap. Huh! Go figure. Different strokes for different folks.

The rain subsided and we took a slow walk to Soho's. As we neither of us were good at navigation or following directions, we had this puzzled, confused look on our faces as we tried to make out where Soho was. (I, more puzzled than the other two). Which is why a taxi driver approached me hopefully:


I smiled: "No thanks."

He went and sat down again. Then got up to ask: "What exactly are you looking for?"

I told him. He said: "Just cross the street. See that nasi kandar place? It's next to it."

(OK as an aside, young Arnold has just come back from gallivanting the whole day and he's sitting right under the fan. He gulped down two bowlfuls of water and he's in the process of passing out. My poor baby)

We found Soho, lived it up (the way aunties do, with just one drink each...but the drink had to be something we had never tried before), made more noise than a fish market at dawn and then staggered our way back to the carpark...where I would have to find my way back to our apartment. One wrong turn heading in entirely the opposite direction, and then a series of quick turns into dark streets and we were OK. Got back all in one piece.

And proceeded to pass out respectively. (At least I did. I donno about the other two).

Part two will follow as now I have to add someone's comments to my follow-up story on the Auditor General's report and send it off as well as shower and wait for the Prabhakaran who will be wending her way here. We are going to Bangsar and then to Backyard. (I will take my camera and bring you all along with me, whether you want to or not).

Later for you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Back In The Saddle

I'm back from Penang now and hitting the ground running, plunged into the chaos of KL, so to speak. I want to tell you all about my trip (all two of you) especially as I found it (from my point of view, at least) terribly surreal. But I find I have misplaced the cables that transfer my pictures (I was going to give you a picture essay). Nevertheless, young Julie has told me she has one, at work right now, which she will bring home for me to use.

Young Arnold has adopted another family, I think. He has a tendency of disappearing all day. I stopped him today, because he came home last night with dried blood over him (got into a fight, methinks and Juliethinks too) so I leashed him up and took the reluctant little lump on a walk, brought him home and forbade him from going out. So, being a (relatively) obedient little dog, he is now sitting under the car, merajuking.

My to-do list for the day keeps growing and growing. But it is Christmas and I shan't forget that while scrambling between meetings today.

Off to scramble for my first one.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thank You For Reading; Bye For Now

I'm back after a late night out...one story to amend and now I've got to pack and head off.

I'll be away for the next three days.

Try not to miss me too much.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dealing with the R-word

Max wanted desperately to be a writer. He'd been sending letters and manuscripts to publishers for months, and he'd received dozens of variations on the theme: "We have reviewed your submission and found that it does not meet our needs at this time." Every writer can read between the lines of such notes; we know that what the publishers really mean is, "You can't write, you can't think and everyone hates you. Also, you're ugly."

Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star

Funny thing about rejection. I have finally found a way to deal with it. And it's one of those stupid cliched things people keep telling you and you don't pay no mind to.

Keep busy.

Now see, if I had the choice, if there were no economic imperatives, I would keep busy by reading book after book (none of them work-related, although frequently when I'm doing this, I find bits and pieces that will be later added to speeches to make other people look smart) or watching mindless sitcom after mindless sitcom and brooding.

I do the brooding thing really well. A little incident grows in my mind, puts in roots, puts out branches and finally I have the oak tree of resentments. But nothing gets a chance to take root and grow when I'm just too frigging busy. Oh this person is angry? Tough, but I gotta concentrate on this article now. And then I have all these errands to run. And then there's the cards I have to post. And then, and then, and then....

Thankfully the marketing phase of my freelancing career is over in that I don't have to pay marketing calls to anyone to hock my services...there are a few surprises but work is relatively even and there is a lot of it. So I can sit back, relax, and oh yeah, work. But being a freelancer, you gotta be oh so careful about deadlines. (As in recent example of female who freaked because she had written a nebulous deadline...second week of November which I chose to regard as the end of the second week and she chose to regard as the beginning and freak accordingly).

But in the midst of this chaos there is a lot of rejection coming through but somehow it slips past me, or I see it, give it a brief nod, maybe a salute, and then, get on with it.

So it's Sunday now and I was supposed to have gone to Kuala Selangor with Beatrix's young stepdaughter to go look at fireflies, but stepdaughter in question has not contacted me or answered texts or emails.

I'm thinking, it's probably off.

Later for you.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In The Zone

It's really something after bellyaching for a week and a half about the overwhelming number of stories and other miscellaneous bits of writing that I have to do (while watching endless episodes of ANYTHING as a frantic attempt at work avoidance) to actually sit down and clear the work today in one fell swoop. I mean, really. I don't have feedback on the work but it doesn't matter. What matters is that c'est finis. Well as much as I logically could. There are some people I am supposed to call for comments on something or other, but calling during the weekend, unless they happen to be, like, your really really good friend, but not even then, is a terrible faux pas.

So today, I went to PJ Hills to get Dadda, pale-faced and worried-looking, some dinner. He was on the sofa watching one of those stupid pre-football documentaries. But I walked in to the place, stared at the awful oily curries and the even more awful looking tandoori and something inside me screamed a great big NO!

So I walked out, got into my car and said...I don't know how I find really nice food, I only know that I do. And asked my inner compass to direct me to some decent food, preferably Indian (he did say he wanted curry). Yes, I'm a crystal-kissing, tree-hugging freak. Or leperchaun (personally, I prefer leperchaun).

It directed me towards Pakeeza, newly renovated and bustling as ever. I thought it had closed down. Wow. So I went inside, bought some prawn masala and palak paneer and then hied me out of there. Oh wow. They were divine with Dadda's parboiled rice.

Young Arnold, whom I fed earlier, slipped under the table to await handouts. When we were done and I actually gave him the leftovers he sniffed it disdainfully and decided that no, on second thoughts, he didn't want any.

My fatty is so the fussy one.

Now he's curled up in the hall keeping the D-man company. Julie is out. I am at the computer. Which means everything is as it always was. And I am feeling perky, the first energy I've had in weeks. Has to do with finishing two stories, a speech and sending off a bunch of questions on liquidity risk management.

See, I was supposed to have sent the questions a few days ago. Well, OK, maybe two days. But I couldn't because I didn't know what the heck it was. And the articles I skimmed through confused me even further.

Note to self: Do not attempt to read up on abstruse financial concepts while eyeballing Charles and Hawkeye.

Anyway, today, in line with the flow of the day (really this is the first day that's flowed....like syrup) I pounced on the perfect article and it explained not only liquidity risk management but things like contingent cashflows and other such sexy concepts (swoon). So I trotted out the standard 10 questions, CC-ed the busybodies who wanted in on it, and now, I'm free, I'm free, I'm freer than free.

OK, well, free is relative. I want to scrub the mucky room that I came back to, dust and put everything away, make up a list of things I want to take up north, maybe bake a cake (the new oven is in force, did I tell you?). I can make lists of things I actually WANT to do rather than things I HAVE to do.

My bed is scattered with Christmas cards. So excitipating.

Ooooooh the D-man has finished watching his football which means I could watch some more M*A*S*H*. But now that I don't have anymore work to constipate through I think I'll do all the other stuff first.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Butter Prawn Symphony

"Jacob punya anak! (roughly translated, child of Jacob, which is what he called me)," he shouts from across the room.

I look up from my PC and the story-du-jour I am constipating through. "Yeah?"

"You got hot date on Saturday?"

Uh-oh. This could only mean one thing. I run through my mind for a possible topic. Never mind. If I can't think of one, I'll call Mark. Or Scott. Or Jan. One of them will be able to come up with something for me. They always do.

"No." The result being a foregone conclusion.

"How bout I take you out for butter prawns."

Code for, you write the column this week and after that I'll give you a treat at red tableclcoth. (Red tablecloth was the most popular Chinese restaurant in Bangsar. The Mat Sallehs called it Cheap Charlie. Everybody else called in Kam Yin. It is gone now. As are the creamy butter prawns. As are the honey spare ribs. Bangsar is devoid of love for my tummy. Oright, maybe there's the mushroom tapas thingy at Bodega's and full-bodied red number 3. But nothing else)

"Aiya Yongie, nobody else to do Adi, ah?"

Because that's the column that needs to be serviced. And whadayyaknow, we don't have one for this week.


So I get on the phone to all my dial-a-quotes. They're all supersmart and plugged in and when I talk to them I don't have to think. I'm allergic to thinking.

So Saturday comes, and I thump out the Adi in question: "Welcome to Planet Internet, where the rules of earth gravity don't apply...(and then go on to talk about the earnings price ratio of Amazon as opposed to say, GE) Or else..."whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of OUTRAGEOUS fortune or take arms against a sea of troubles and by Opposing, END THEM! (There was this financial crisis, see, and these currency speculators who were wrecking our economy -Munir Majid said the belonged in the 10th circle of hell...and we were going in for capital controls)

Basically you could write anything for Adi. There was no byline. You could be sweet, poetic, sarcastic as hell, no one minded, I don't even know if anyone read it. That was the nice thing about writing for a small newspaper. You could write what you wanted. No one cared. And even if they did, they said, only 5,000 readers, no big deal.

(I miss the hungry years - fortified as they were with food from red tablecloth and Herbal Soup House)

And after the labour, the sweets. Oh those creamy butter prawns. Oh the claypot chicken rice. Oh the asparagus belachan. Eating till stuffed and then, to eat some more. After Yongie left it was no fun to work Saturdays. It was just something you had to get through. You never know till someone is gone, just how much they meant.

You don't know that those bad old days would turn into the good old days.

You don't know.

I went to visit the old office today. It is sparkling, gleaming, impersonal.

No more shouting across to one another.

No more, tangkachi, (that's how he pronounced it) you want to date me this Saturday?

No more butter prawns.

Oh death in life, the days that are no more.

There is no order of difficulty in miracles

So technically, I should not be lying here in my sweat, dusty feet held carefully away from me, worrying about what to ask the EY dude(liquidity risk management? I mean, come on!), worrying what I'm going to put in the speech that is due Saturday, wondering what I'm going to ask tomorrow and then what I'm going to write - two stories, 1,000 words each. Oh dear.

Life is simple. I have a talent for making it complicated. And watching as the threads unravel and then tangle...

Christmas is coming
the goose is getting fat
please a put a penny in the old man's hat
pleasa a put a penny in the old man's hat
if you don't have a penny
a ha'penny will do
if you don't have a ha'penny then God bless you
if you don't have a ha'penny then God bless you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


What is it you're trying so hard not to see?

Sometimes work overwhelms, I have a bad habit of accepting nearly everything, and saying no to nothing, until I reach the breaking point, overwhelm, situation normal all fucked up (that's my normal state of being, complete chaos, and I only feel comfortable when everything around me is crumbling, crumbling, blasting away to kingdom come).

What is it you're trying so hard not to see?

I haven't sorted out a thing. Not a damn thing. The credit card thing is still hanging in the air. As is the fate of Arnold. As is... a myriad of a million little things unresolved, unsettled. Kind of like my stomach now.

What is it you're trying so hard not to see?

So she asks me, how far have you gone and I say, um, I haven't started yet. And she goes into hysterical meltdown. Hey sugar, I work fast, I really do. I can have one of these babies for you in no time at all. And it will be semi-intelligent...I'd make it intelligent but that wouldn't fit the bill, would it? Not with the present audience...one syllable words said very slowly is how we do it...enunciate!

What is it you're trying so hard not to see?

It's this piece of black tubing at the back of the oven that connects to the gas.

Doesn't it come with the oven?

Apparently not.

Go buy it.

Sigh. OK.

What is it you're trying so hard not to see?

The picture fell, the glass broke and this was years ago. Years. I want to fix it. I've been carrying it around in my car. I still haven't fixed it. The framers are disappearing, slowly. Who saw them go?

What is it you're trying so hard not to see?

The assignment tomorrow was cancelled. Yay! I didn't want to go for it. I really, really didn't. And I didn't want to fake it either. Cancelled. Maybe email questions. Maybe not.

What is it you're trying so hard not to see?

I don't know. You tell me.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Masticating Styrofoam

You know how it is when your brain decides to go on vacation and there are articles and articles and articles to be written, none of them easy, none of them lighthearted. You move your fingers, you quilt together various quotes, you troll the internet for information, you say, ok, please, maybe, help.

And then you push the work away from you and try to write it remote control. Heart not in it, mind somewhere in the ether, soul stuck in my bolster and praying, praying, praying...that the editor won't notice.

I've accepted two other assignments this week. I didn't say no. I want to accumulate work and then go off AWOL for a while. I think my friend needs me. I think. She hasn't told me what's up yet. She's just been sad and mysterious.

And Mark sent him his standard text to tell me he's playing today and I sent him my standard reply to the news:

Be still my heart.

But he'll look around and I won't be there because well, I'm still not in town.

As G found out when she called to ask if I could go for such and such assignment tomorrow.


Maybe the day after?


Yeah, OK. The day after.

And T said, OK you come back Wednesday, I'll brief you on Thursday and then Friday, voila, the interview. And I nod sadly because my heart has gone somewhere, flown away bye bye, and I'm left here to drag my carcass around and try to do the needful. Record the pearls of wisdom from the lips of this person or that. Assume the alert, interested look.

No, I'm not bored. No, I'm really interested in all you're saying.

I said I'm interested, dammit!

Wading through mud.

Masticating styrofoam.

Oh dear.

(I miss my Arnold boy. He's sticking to Dadda like a limpet. If Mum can find a dogsitter she wants to come to KL with me to get things sorted. Maybe Joseph)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Overwork Overture

Mum made goreng pisang yesterday. Yummy, yummy, yummy, I got love in my tummy...

They asked me how I knew
Her brassiere was blue

Hawkeye Pierce, singing in the shower to the tune of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Huh, just as I was busy relaxing, watching endless episodes of M*A*S*H* back to back, scarfing Mum's goreng pisang, bathing the doggies, taking them for their walkies, giving them doggie treats (because I like to spoil them when I'm here), out of the blue, a phone call. And then another.

And suddenly, I'm swamped again. I just got through being so swamped I didn't have time to brush my teeth last month. Whaddayaknow, I did it again. And I've got plans from the 14th onwards, which means I have to hustle.

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

I hate hustling.

I was born for slower climes where you amble or shuffle along, lost in reverie rather than doing the Japanese quick walk (when I was in Japan in 1993, I remember always having to run to catch up. Thanong, the finance editor of a Thai daily pointed out that this was why South East Asians were always left behind the Japanese - we didn't walk fast enough).

Mum is upstairs getting all freshened up so we can go out. She was gardening all morning, sweeping up leaves, clipping this and that. The dogs were sleeping peacefully. (They like having Mum in the garden wandering around doing her gardening, makes them feel like all is right with the world).

Last count - I owe two articles, three speeches and one cover story. All by the 15th. Or possibly, the 14th. And I have an assignment next Friday. (What gives? I usually goof off in November, writing out Christmas cards, planning my Christmas baskets, baking cookies and cakes - yay for my new oven!)

Now, apparently, it's nose to the grindstone and never mind the sky (which is an ugly grey anyway, combination of haze and dark clouds - rain, rain, rain - floods, bad floods, evacuating 19,000 people kind of floods)

Here's a picture of Lizzie, the lizard that lives under the TV cabinet. She comes out late every night to eat insects. She's company at midnight. Our friendly neighbourhood gecko. She once won a fight with a big scary spider.

Life in the Slow Lane

My camera batteries are charging now as I have to go out and take a picture of an intersection and then go to the police station with the Big M to prove something or other. At the moment, I am unclear on exactly what I have to prove with the pictures, because Mum makes vague references about showing that four cars can go through there. Whatever. I'll find out when I find out.

As I'm only around for a week or so we have to get all the errands out of the way. Like the grocery shopping (done), bathing the doggies (done), banking (not done yet), fixing my car (not done yet), changing the glass on Julie's Gandalf-Frodo framed poster (I'll take a picture of it so you can see how lovely and one-of-a-kind it is), graveyard All-Souling (half done but the Big M doesn't want to go to the Ulu Tiram graveyard) and - I've forgotten the rest.

I gave Mums a foot massage last night but in the end she said pain, pain, never mind, better already, no more. (I think I pressed too hard near the knee). I also cut my finger cutting down sprays of orchids outside that were poking through the fence. How did I cut my finger on orchids, you say, it has no thorns...yes, I agree, it doesn't. But the bougainvillea it is messed up with does. So I cut my finger on one of the bougainvillea thorns and then put Aloe Vera on the cut (the Big M's stock remedy) and then bathed the dogs and did all the other stuff. Now it hurts like hell. Or rather, it stings. Like a hornet.

The floodwaters are rising. Early every morning the rain comes in through the leaky roof and falls on Mum's side of the bed. She puts a dipper there and goes back to sleep. It's cold and I snuggle up in the blankets and fall even faster asleep.

I am supposed to be writing three speeches and two articles all within a short spacce of time. The articles require transcription (as you know my favourite thing) and are both about complicated complications that I don't understand, that I didn't create. I haven't started on a damn thing. And it's already Wednesday.

Ah me, life is joyful.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The House Front, Elliot and Maggot

Actually it's more Maggot than Elliot as that dog actually likes me and poses. Elliot merajuked and wouldn't pose. So we have a view of him turned away purposefully ignoring me (the more you ignore me, the closer I get) and Maggotty looking cute with his tongue hanging out smiling at me. And also the front of the house which you can examine to your heart's content. Mum sat at the computer and went through my pictures with a fine-tooth comb.

I arrived in JB last night. Maggotty was happy to see me. He did his howly bark welcome. Elliot didn't do the howly bark (he just did the bark) but he was happy too. They were both munching on their toy bones that Chubs had brought from KL cos Arnold (who doesn't have many teeth) rejected them.

Elliot is now ignoring me and giving me his "you are dead to me" look (or non-look) but I think he will forgive me once I've taken him for his first walk in ages.

Mum stumbled out to open the gate, quiet the doggies and make me a Milo. (all that with a rumbly tummy). Now's she's just made a list for me to go shopping at Giant and is fiddling with the free gift I got from one of my interviews - she's delighted with it but still thinks I should take it back to KL and put it on my desk.

Now then, the pictures...

Full view

The new postbox

The new gate

View from outside my room

The new fence

My Maggotty boy

You are dead to me!

I can't help it! He's so cute!

The Big M messing about with her new toy